Friday, December 31, 2010

Stollen from the heart - Daring Bakers 12/10

Here's a great way to wrap up the year and give it away in a cute bread wreath. Stollen is a German Holiday bread that has dried fruits and sometimes marzipan inside. After making a couple of these breads for gifts, I have decided this bread would make a great Spring time, and "Anytime" bread, too. I took my Stollen with me to a family vacation and we made toast, French toast, and ultimately a fantastic Fruited Bread Pudding within the week.

I hope you'll take the time to try this Stollen. The recipe is simple and the results look professional. I know your friends and family will be stunned by your Stollen.


The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

RECIPE: Stollen

1/4 cup lukewarm water (60 ml)
2 packages (4 1/2 tsps.) active dry yeast (14 grams)
1 cup milk (240ml)
3/4 tsp. salt (4.5 grams)
1 tsp. cinnamon (6 grams)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 tsps. Vanilla extract (10ml)
1 tsp. orange extract (5 ml)
3/4 cup mixed candied peel (135 grams)
1 cup raisins (170 grams)
3 Tbls. rum (45ml)
1 cup flaked almonds (100 grams)
Melted butter for coating thw wreath
Powdered sugar for dusting and garnish
** If you don't want to use alcohol, you can soak the raisins in double portion of the orange extract.**

Gather all your ingredients in steps like this:

1) In a small bowl, add: 1/4 cup of very warm water and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let sit for about 5 minutes to get foamy.
2) In your large mixing bowl, add: Flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, lemon and orange zest and mix together, using the paddle attachment.
3) In a smaller bowl, whisk: the eggs, vanilla and orange extract together
4) In a saucepan, heat: the milk and butter together until the butter is melted, remove from heat.
5) In another small bowl, add: the raisins and 3 Tbls. of rum to soak for a few minutes.

Once these are gathered, proceed with putting it all together like this:

1) In the mixing bowl with the flour, etc.., use the paddle attachment and add in the yeast mixture, the eggs and the lukewarm milk & butter. Mix together on low until well combined and a soft, but not sticky dough forms. Once the dough comes together, stop and cover with a tea towel or plastic and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

The dough smells like warmed dark spices, even at this point.

2) Using the dough hook, add in the mixed peel, soaked raisins, and almonds and mix on low speed.

3) Now, you can continue to knead with the dough hook for at least 6 minutes, or you can sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough there and knead for about 8-10 minutes. The kneading is very important to distribute the dried fruit and to build up the bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is done well it is tacky and the raisins that used to stay in the dough when it was sticky will sometimes drop off.

4) Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge overnight. The dough will become very firm as the butter gets chilled, but it does rise slowly. The raw dough can be kept in the fridge up to a week and then baked on the day you want. (That is such a plus during this busy time of year!) Remember you'll need a couple hours for the dough to sit out of the fridge before shaping and baking on that day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Microwaved Chips w/ Cinnamon & Fleur de Sel - Simple Saturday

Here's what happens when I go to the Farmer's Market and my eyes are bigger than my week.
Sweet Potato Chips
w/ Cinnamon and Fleur de Sel

This past week, I fell in love with a few Sweet Potatoes (don't judge) and I wanted to take them all home. Then after making soup, casseroles, pies and muffins - I was still staring at several beautiful tubers, but not a lot of time left to use them.

With a teenage son, and a husband who works late hours I'm always looking for snack items that have at least a tiny bit of healthy in there somewhere. Plenty of people have done Sweet Potato fries and chips, but often they are fried (not against it, but time consuming.) I've done baked sticks and baked chips, but right now my ovens are constantly taken up with holiday baking. So...I just quickly slammed out a few thin slices on the mandoline, tossed them in light olive oil, microwaved them on a large plate and half way through sprinkled them with a salty-cinnamon blend. Were they good? I have no more potatoes. They were all eaten in one sitting by several teens who had no idea they were getting their daily requirements of iron, fiber and potassium while snacking and yaking.

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Microwaved Chips w/ Cinnamon and Fleur de Sel

Sweet Potatoes (peeled and sliced thin- a mandoline works best)
2Tbls Olive oil
2 Tbls Cinnamon
1 Tbls. Fleur de Sel (or another coarse salt)
1) In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and salt and hold to the side.
2) In another bowl, toss the Sweet Potato slices in the Olive Oil.
3) On a microwavable platter, lay the slices out without touching or overlapping
4) Microwave the chips, turning them over half way through. Depending on your microwave - this should take 3-4 minutes on each side.
5) While they are still warm, sprinkle the cinnamon salt combo liberally over the chips. They will crisp while cooling. Remove and store in a paper bag, or on parchment until serving.

* Sprinkle more cinnamon salt to taste.

**Optional: Also fabulous with a mixture of equal parts: Chipotle Chile Powder, Sugar, Salt**

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poaching Perfection - Daring Cooks 12/10

Poached Egg on Grilled Romaine w/ Bacon Vinaigrette

Have you ever poached an egg? I mean poached without a "this will make it look like a poached egg" device? It's much simpler than you think. I warn you; once you do one, it's hard to stop playing with dropping the raw eggs into hot water and watching them become a balloon of golden comfort food.
Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

Now, for the grilling - it was done inside the house, in my fav pan: a La Creuset grill pan. No, as much as I'd love to be given a free La Creuset...anything, they did not sponsor this "rave". I just wanted to pass along the pan power. :D I'm sure there are other grill pans that also work well. Basically you just want the pan to be heavy (cast iron) and durable (cast iron) and have the raised grill stripes.

To those of you who may be thinking, "Why would I cook lettuce, why would I purposely make my lettuce soggy?" I offer that grilling greens gives them a nice smokey flavor and they're on the heat just long enough to wilt and create a wonderful mixture of saute and crisp.
This is a classic French Bistro Salad, often served with varied greens.
Then, there's the Bacon Vinaigrette - 'nuff said, am I right? There is no wrong time for bacon and eggs. The combo in this dish gives you the balance of buttery eggs that burst into their own sauce, on top of smokey greens with the tangy/sweet/savory bite of bacon and vinaigrette. Top this with a shaved shard of true Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that kicks up a natural salty zing and you have a full meal on a luncheon size plate.

RECIPE: Poached Eggs on Grilled Romaine with Bacon Vinaigrette-

Poaching the Egg-

1) Bring a deep sided sauce or saute pan filled 3/4 with water to a low simmer (not boiling)
2) Add 1 Tbls. vinegar to the water (it helps with keeping the egg together as it cooks).
3) Crack open the egg and drop the raw egg into the water gently (or put the egg into a cup first so you can control the gentle drop).
4) Cook the egg (s) for 3-4 minutes until the whites are set, but the yellow is definitely runny.
5) Remove with a slotted spoon and keep in cold water until ready to reheat and serve.

Bacon Vinaigrette:

3 pieces of bacon
1/2 shallot (minced)
2 Tbls Champagne Vinegar (or white balsamic, or other flavor)
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbls Bacon fat (from cooking the bacon)
pepper to taste

1) Fry 3 pieces of bacon in a pan til crisp. Remove the bacon and all but 1 Tbls. of the rendered grease. Chop the bacon into small bits and hold.
2) In a bowl, whisk together well the 1 Tbls. left over bacon fat, shallots, vinegar, mustard, and pepper.
3) Drizzle the Olive oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette is emulsified (or holds together and thickened) Set aside for serving.

Grilled Romaine:

1) Wash and dry completely several stalks of Romaine Lettuce.
2) Spray (or wipe) the grilling pan with olive oil and heat on Med/High until hot.
3) Lay the Romaine lettuce leaves out as flat as possible and allow grill marks to show, then remove to a platter for serving as soon as possible.


Reheat the poached eggs by placing them in a bowl of very hot water for just a couple minutes
Lay out the Grilled Romaine, top with a poached egg.
Drizzle the Bacon Vinaigrette over the egg, and sprinkle with the cooked bacon.
Garnish with a thinly shaved piece of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Here are a few tips from the Daring Cooks this month:

 Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. Old eggs will have a harder time with the whites spreading out all over the place when you place the egg in the water.
 Adding a bit of vinegar or acidic agent to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster, and keeping your water just below boiling point (about 190F) will help keep the fragile eggs from all the boiling bubble action rupturing the eggs. Also make sure to salt your poaching water well.
 The other main key to success is to crack your egg into a small bowl first, taking care not to break the yolk. Then it becomes easy to gently slide the entire egg into the water for the poaching process. Some people will also suggest swirling the poaching liquid into a bit of a vortex before sliding the egg in, in order to help keep the egg whites together. I’ve found it works fine whether or not you do this step.
 A poached egg is done when the whites are fully cooked and the yolk has just started to solidify but is still runny when you cut it open – usually three minutes. It’s ok to go a little longer though depending on your desired firmness. I like mine so the edges of yolks are cooking but the inside is still runny, so I usually let them go 30s longer.
 You can poach eggs ahead of time (about a day). Just immerse them in ice water after poaching, and then keep them in a bowl of water in the fridge. When you are ready to use them, place them in hot (not boiling) water until they are warmed through.

Enjoy and for another easy recipe on Poaching Fish from ShowFoodChef - click HERE.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meet the Celeriac - a Simple Saturday Side Dish

If there were ever proof that you can't judge a book by it's cover - it's the Celeriac. CELERIAC SLAW

Let's be honest, it's not a pretty vegetable. For years I literally ignored these things also called, Celery Roots. If one rolled off the bin, I think I would've picked it up with a sneer and wondered why these little lean green celery stalks were being burdened by the big ball of warts attached to it. Thank goodness for food-enlightenment that sometimes comes from family members, books, schools, a client's request or just plain curiosity. I was so excited to discover the tingling crispy celery-flavored orb this knobby creature contains. The Celeriac is very versatile and can be served raw and marinated (as in this slaw), added as a mild flavor base to soup, and when cooked in milk can make an excellent whipped puree.
To prep the Celeriac, cut off both ends to create a safe base. Using a sharp knife, slice off the outer bark to reveal the white and crispy inside.

RECIPE: Celeriac Slaw

1 Celeriac (Celery Root)
3 Tbls Organic Mayonaise
2 tsps Stone Ground Mustard
1/2 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tbls. capers (drained)
salt/pepper to taste

1) Using a mandoline, slice the celeriac into thin rounds.

2) Stack the rounds, a few at a time, and cut into thin Julienne strips
3) Place the Celeriac sticks into a bowl with all the other ingredients. Toss (I think it works best with your own hands) to coat all the sticks. Adjust seasoning to taste.4) Cover and chill for a few hours. This is even better the next day.
The tangy crispness of this slaw makes it a perfect balancing side to a rich and starchy meal like we often serve at holidays or large gatherings. That's why I've selected it for my December Holiday Side Dish for the "Lets Lunch" bunch (a fun twitter group that makes a virtual luncheon date once a month). For a vast selection of unique side dishes - see these wonderful bloggers and posts:

Kitchen Trials - Parker Rolls

Geofooding - "Side Dish of Life"

Cowgirl Chef - Mushroom Leek Quinoa Salad

A Tiger In The Kitchen - Pickled Beets

Bon Vivant - French Leek Gratin

Dreaming of Pots and Pans - Peasant Bread

Hot Curries and Cold Beer - Green Beans

Cooking In The Fruit Bowl - Kimchi Risotto Bake

Free Range Cookies - Green Bean Casserole

**Please consider this an open invitation to join us for our next virtual lunch - simply look for us on twitter by typing in #LetsLunch **

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Persimmon & Dried Cherries w/ Brandy Conserve

For the past year I have been a part of a very fun and challenging monthly posting called TigressCanJam. This month's product to use was Dried Fruit, and it may have been one of my favorites.

Fuyu Persimmon & Dried Cherries w/Brandy
I fell in love (okay, maybe even obsessed) with Fuyu Persimmons a while back when I made a Persimmon Rum Raisin Bread Pudding. What can I tell ya, I'm a sucker for a misunderstood fruit (don't even go there.)

To a lot of people, the Persimmon means that oddly orange colored tomato-size thing that supposed to turn your mouth inside-out if you eat it before it's ripe. But, that is only half the story - meaning the other half is that there are TWO kinds of persimmons and the FUYU doesn't fool-you.
The Fuyu can be eaten while it's firm (sliced in salads, baked in breads and muffins, made into jam, eaten raw like an apple), AND when it's soft (baked in puddings, ice cream, candy, cheese and on meats.)
The other Persimmon (and I'm not saying that with an attitude, just a fact) is called the Hachiya. The Hachiya Persimmon can really make the inside of your cheeks squeek if you eat it too soon, but if you wait until it's as soft as pudding, it tastes like a pear and a pumpkin got together and made butter. The FUYU (my fav) looks like a little pin cushion with the dark orange glow of a winter sunset. Then, when you cook these babies down with a little sugar, throw in some dried (oh, yes - oh, yes) CHERRIES - then (hold me back) a good glug of BRANDY; How could you not want to eat this by the spoonful right out of the jar? Yeah, so...maybe that's what I did - I'm not saying.
RECIPE: Persimmon & Dried Cherries with Brandy Conserve
(inspired by Ball Preserving)

5 cups (2.8 lbs) Fuyu Persimmons (peeled and chopped)

2/3 cup (4oz.) Dried Cherries

5 cups (1 lb 14oz) Sugar

3 Tbls. Lemon Juice

2 packets of Liquid natural pectin

1/4 cup Brandy

1) In a large sauce pan bring the persimmons, cherries, sugar and lemon juice to a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often. This will break down the persimmons just a bit and dissolve the sugar.

2) Turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil for 3 minutes, then stir in the 2 packets of pectin.

3) Return to boiling for 1 minute. Remove from heat and quickly skim, then pour in the Brandy and stir well.

4) Pour into hot, sterilized jars, seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

5) Remove and cool for 24 hours, undisturbed.

Conserve is less jelled than jams or jellies and makes great toppings for pancakes, crepes, meats and on cheese plates.

A huge Thank You to Tigress Can/Jam and her creative ideas and talented work.

Thank you guys for stopping by and I know you "can", so let me know when you do. :D

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Buttermilk Bark - Simple Saturday

Do you collect recipes? Here's one I've had for many years. I think I tore it out of an old magazine just because of the name, I didn't even like buttermilk at the time. A lot has changed.
Buttermilk Bark
I've given Buttermilk Bark as part of my holiday candy box gifts, and it goes great as a tangy creamy side to chocolate fudge. Confession: sometimes I purposely break some of them too small so I "have" to eat them myself. :D
RECIPE: Buttermilk Bark (adapted recipe)

1 Cup Buttermilk
1 1/2 - 2 cups Sugar (300g)
1 tsp. honey (they called for corn syrup, but honey tastes better)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbls. Butter
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted is even better)

1) Place a silpat on a baking sheet (or line an 8x8 inch pan w/parchment and spray the paper)

2) In a large saucepan, add buttermilk, sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and baking soda. Heat on med. to boiling.

3) Cook, stirring, until thick and soft-ball stage (about 235F - takes about 10-15 minutes)

4) Remove from heat, cool for a few minutes, then stir in walnuts and whip briskly for a few moments.

5) Pour onto the silpat (or into the pan) and spread out evenly. Let cool, then break into pieces.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gingerbread Spice Biscotti

Gingerbread Spice Biscotti
There are times when smells, flavors, voices, songs or lighting can turn into your own personal time machine. Dipping one of these crunchy, not-too-sweet, toasted Gingerbread Spice Biscotti into a cup of tea/coffee/or hot chocolate while listening to Sounds of the Season and gazing at twinkling lights - well - it's your own little sleigh into blissdom.During the snowy, freezing winter months in North Carolina, very often my school bus would be late or gloriously weather bound. School would be canceled and my brother and I would be left to hang out by a warming stove at my Grandmother's farm house. That also meant we would be there for the morning biscuits - hot out of the oven. She would wrap one for each of us in a paper napkin, poke a hole through the top (steam billowing out like a little pastry locomotive) then she'd pour in a drizzle of black strap molasses. I've never had an Italian pastry that could compare or make me giggle as much as standing beside a wood-burning fire, wearing snow-soaked boots and sinking my teeth into that warm, sticky, sweet baked dough-ball.It's the molasses in this biscotti, along with the always smile-provoking spices of nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon that make this little toasted cookie/biscuit so addictive. I'm not even a giant fan of gingerbread (to be honest), but the molasses have kept me making these and eating half of them myself for a few years now. They make great gifts and because they keep well you can make them ahead of time. As with most biscotti, these are baked twice: once as a long loaf, then sliced and toasted to create the crumble and snap that is so good for dipping. If you prefer them a little softer, you can skip the second baking - but at least try it once or with half the pastry.The word "Biscotti" is Italian and the Tuscan region gets credit for creating them. It means "cookie" or "biscuit" in Italian, but is literally a combo of the words "twice" and "cooked". The second baking helps to take out the moisture and is why they can last a very long time.

One of my favorite things about biscotti is you can eat it any time: as a snack, with a hot drink, as a dessert, or as a breakfast bread.RECIPE: Gingerbread Spice Biscotti

1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Butter (4 oz.)
2 eggs
1/3 cup Molasses

2 1/2 cup AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp. Ground ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

*optional- 1/2 cup sliced almonds

1) In a large bowl beat together the sugars and butter.
2) Then add eggs one at a time, beating well, then beat in molasses.
3) In another bowl: combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and all the spices.
4) Add the flour & spices, etc. to the butter mixture and beat on low until blended.
5) Stir in the almonds
6) Pull dough together; it will be quite sticky.
Place on floured board and divide into small narrow loaves:7) Bake in a preheated oven set on 350 F, until firm ( about 20 minutes). Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove to cool on a rack for about 10 more minutes.
8) Cut into diagonals of about 1 inch or less slices. Return these slices to the pan, lower oven to 300F, and bake for 5-8 minutes on each side.
As the twice baked biscotti cool, they will become crunchy little cookies that act like tough guys until you dip them into warm coffee/tea/hot chocolate or a nice glass of Vin Santo. In the time it takes to get from the glass to your mouth, they will dissolve into a juicy little bite of spicy gingerbread. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Crostata, Tarte or Pie - Good No Matter How You Slice It (Daring Bakers 11/10)

Tarte Aux Poires Et Chocolat (Pear & Chocolate Tart)

A little while back, I had the pleasure of being the Chef for an evening with Anne Willan (creator of LaVarenne in France). It was a small tasting event at the chic Algabar Tea in Los Angeles. The night was a book signing event with invited guests that included an evening of Anne's travel stories and a sampling of her chosen recipes prepared (gulp). Although I was nervous with desire to prepare and please with the courses from her book, "The Country Cooking of France" (and a bit intimidated for sure), the evening was a complete success. Anne could not have been more gracious, elegant and warm. She included me in the Q & A after the meal, and praised me generously. In a town like Los Angeles - where I have worked beside some people (celebrities) whose work I admired, only to find them lacking in the "how to not act like a jerk" department - Anne Willan was a treasure.When I read this month's Daring Baker's challenge was a crostata (an Italian tart), I immediately thought of the many Tartes I made that night for our tasting. Although, I love all Italian foods and I've made many Italian Crostatas, I also love to be connected to the process in a personal way. Besides, this time I was going to be not only cooking it, but eating it too, oh yeah.
The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

If we get very specific here: a Crostata (Italian) is very often a free formed pastry and a Tarte (French) is more structured. The actual ingredients may vary according to local supplies, the fruits that are in season and the availability of eggs, butter and sugar. In the United States, we often just use the word "Pie" for anything that is encased in pastry no matter how big or small, fruit or savory, baked or fried. No matter what you call it, when it's this good your mouth will be too full to talk about it anyway.

As part of the challenge, we were given the recipe for the pastry and it follows:

Pasta Frolla-

1/2 cup minus 1 Tbls. superfine sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 stick (8 Tbls. ) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces.
grated zest of half a lemon
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
1) Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
2) Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarse crumbs.
3) Pour the flour mixture onto the work board, make a well in the center of the mounded flour mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it.
4) Add the lemon zest to the flour/butter/egg mixture
5) Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients and use your fingertips.
6) Knead just until the dough comes together into a ball
7) Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plasic. Chill for at least an hour
8) When ready, remove the chilled dough and roll out thin and a little bigger than a 10" tart pan.
9) Carefully lift the dough and place into the tart pan, pressing gently around the inside edges and rolling your rolling pin over the top to trim the pastry so it fits the tart pan.
10) Chill the tart shell in the pan for about 30 minutes so the pastry doesn't shrink when cooking.
Fill and Bake as your recipe suggests, or blind bake (pre bake ) the tart shell for filling with a custard or fruit.

Tarte Aux Poires Et Chocolat recipe (* waiting for permission to reprint, please check back) and seriously consider getting a copy. I have probably made over 30 recipes just from her book.